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Patrick Brazeau returns to Senate seat three years after legal saga began

Senator Patrick Brazeau speaks to reporters as he arrives at the Senate on Sept. 27, 2016 in Ottawa.

Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS

More than three years after the beginning of his long legal saga, Sen. Patrick Brazeau has retaken his seat in the upper chamber.

The Quebec senator was cleared to return back in July, when the RCMP opted not to pursue criminal charges of fraud and breach of trust based on his housing expense claims.

Brazeau likened his first day back in the Senate to a rookie hockey player on the first day of training camp, but called it a good day for him and his family.

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"I'm just glad to be back at work," Brazeau said.

"I look forward to it. I'm excited, and it's a good day for my family and I."

The now-independent senator, originally a Conservative appointee, says he plans to use his independence to push issues dear to his heart now that he no longer has to be a partisan puppet.

That's a reference to the rift between him and former prime minister Stephen Harper, who named Brazeau to the Senate seven years ago — then kicked him out of the Conservative caucus in 2013. Brazeau accused Harper and the Tories of hanging him out to dry when questions were first raised about his spending three years ago.

Brazeau had little to say about his former political boss.

"I hope he has a great retirement," he said of Harper, who resigned his House of Commons seat last month.

Brazeau was one of a handful of prominent senators who were caught up in the Senate spending scandal, and long maintained his innocence even as his fellow senators voted in support of a suspension that lasted until last year.

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In April, Mike Duffy was acquitted on 31 criminal charges stemming from his Senate spending,; the RCMP closed their investigation on Pamela Wallin shortly afterwards without laying a single charge. Weeks later, Brazeau's charges were withdrawn.

Brazeau said he is still considering whether to take legal action in order to recoup the salary he lost during his suspension without pay.

During the length of the investigation and subsequent court case, Brazeau came to face separate assault, drug and impaired-driving charges, none of which resulted in a conviction. Brazeau has said he had health issues, including a scare with cancer. And in one of his darkest moments, he made an attempt on his own life in January.

It was at that time nine months ago that Brazeau said he thought he would never return to the Senate.

He said he is working on his personal issues and plans to be patient with himself.

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